Printing Terms


To line up typesetting or other graphic elements, using a vertical or horizontal line as a reference point.


The point of a character where two lines meet at the top, such as in the letter A.


Long term storage of files for future use.

Art paper

A smooth coated paper obtained by adding a coating of china clay compound to one or both sides of the paper. Suitable for high quality work.


The electronic files or manual art, such as sketches, photos, drawings and paintings, which make up the job to be printed, sometimes referred to as Camera-Ready Artwork. Today the artwork exists almost wholly in electronic form.


Any part of a lower case letter extending above the x-height. For example, the upper half of the vertical in the letters b or h.

Ascender height

The height of the part of the character rising above the x-height.

Author’s corrections

Changes made to the copy or file by the author after typesetting and construction, but not including those made as a result of errors in construction.

Back up

Storage of electronic files on tape in case of server failure.

Backing up

To print the second side of a printed sheet. A sheet is said to have a front and a back.


A lightweight paper, usually less than 60gsm in weight used for stationery or forms.


A large headline or title often extending across a full page.

Base artwork

Artwork requiring additional components such as pictures or graphics to be added later.


The line on which the base of a capital letter sits.


The various methods used to secure loose leaves or sections in a book, for example saddle-stitched or perfect bound.

Binding margin

An allowance made on the binding edge of a page for the book to be bound. In particular, an allowance is made for punch holes or staples to be inserted.


A digital graphic image formed by tiny squares called ‘pixels’. The more pixels in an image, the clearer the image appears.

Blanket cylinder

The inked litho plate transfers the image to the paper via this cylinder on the press.


The section of artwork which extends beyond the final trim size of the job to assist the cutting operation. It is not possible to print all the way to the edge of a paper sheet and to achieve this effect it is necessary to print a larger area than is required and then trim the paper down. Typically a designer would allow an extra 3 mm of bleed to the colour and image areas to allow for leeway when trimming.


Transition of one colour to another or a graduation of one colour to a lighter or darker shade of that colour.


Inability of a printing plate to accept ink.

Blind Embossing

A type of embossing where no ink or foil is used on the impression. The design or text is only visible as a raised area (also known as bas-relief) on the paper. Created using a bespoke die.


Usually paper of more than 200gsm in weight.


A basic paper, often used for stationery, copying or laser printers.


A page twice the size of tabloid. Commonly used to refer to newspaper press formats.


Photographic image on paper that has a light sensitive coating.

Burst bound

A method of binding where the sections are gathered in order, one on top of the other. The spines of the folded sections are perforated to allow glue to penetrate between the folded sections. Burst binding is suitable for both coated and uncoated stock and is considerably stronger than perfect binding.

Bust cut

A process whereby a double cut is made during the folding or saddle stitching process enabling two jobs to be folded at the same time.

Calendered Paper

Paper which has passed through hardened rollers during manufacture to produce a smooth, high glaze surface.


A means of adjusting scanners, computer monitors and output devices (such as image setters) in order to match the final printed product.


The thickness of a sheet of paper or board expressed in microns (millionths of a metre). Also the name of the tool used to make the measurement.

Camera ready

The term which describes artwork or ‘paste-up’ ready for reproduction. Now used mainly for describing artwork which can be scanned and output electronically.


A paper coated with chemicals and dye which produces copies without the aid of carbon paper. Also known as NCR (No Carbon Required) paper.

Cartridge paper

A thick general purpose paper used for drawing or printing.

Case bound

A binding method where a hardback book is made up with stiff outer covers (cases). Cases can be covered with cloth, vinyl or leather.


Shorthand for the colours used in Four Colour Process Printing - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and BlacK. When combined in various percentages, these four inks will create an entire spectrum of colours, including those used in colour pictures and photographs.


An emulsion, varnish or lacquer applied over a printed surface to protect it. Different coatings can produce a range of finishes, from high gloss to mat, without the need for a secondary process (such as UV varnish or laminate).


The process of assembling the various sections or pages of a document in the correct order, usually prior to binding, padding or gluing in sets.

Colour bar

A strip printed onto the sheet (usually on the grip edge) showing combinations of the printing inks being used as screens and solids. It is used to help maintain consistency of ink coverage and density.

Colour Separation

The process of preparing a print project by separating it into its printing colours. For full-colour work, this would consist of four separations, one for each of the four primary printing colours (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). Spot colours can also be known as a separation.

Comb binding

A plastic strip with attached coils that run through punched slots in the binding edge of a booklet. See Wire Bound.

Computer to Plate (CTP)

CTP is a process where a digital artwork file goes through a RIP and is output directly onto a printing plate, doing away with the traditional film requirements.


A rough drawing or computer generated image designed to give the client an idea of how the final layout, colour and content of a job will appear.

Concertina fold

A method of folding in which each fold opens in the opposite direction to its neighbour, giving a concertina or pleated effect.

Continuous tone

An image in which the subject has continuous shades of colour or grey without being broken up by dots. Lithography cannot produce continuous tones. The images must first be screened into halftone dots.


The degrees of tones in a photograph ranging from the highlight to the shadow.


Copyright gives protection to the author/designer of material to prevent use without express permission or acknowledgement of the artist.

Crack and peel

Adhesive paper which is mounted on a backing sheet that has an existing ‘crack’ making the two parts easy to peel apart. Used for label work.


A printed job can be creased mechanically to make folding easier and cleaner. Ideally every paper above 150gsm should be creased before folding to prevent the ink from cracking - if no ink is present on the folds then 170gsm can be the limit.


The brand name of a colour proofing system produced by Du Pont and consisting of transparent layers laminated in one piece to a backing. Each layer represents the film for one colour. The finished result is a crisp, bright simulation of the printed product.

Crop marks

The marks printed on a sheet to indicate to the guillotine operator where the job will be cut. Also used by the printer to line up and back up the sheet on the printing press.


The elimination of parts of an image that are not required to be printed. Depending on the images’ resolution, cropping can in some cases allow an image to be enlarged to fill the space.

Cut flush

A method of trimming a book after the cover has been attached to the pages.

Cutting guide (die cut)

A positive film line image showing where a job will be die cut, creased or both.


A design, letters, or pattern cut in metal for stamping, embossing or for die cutting.


The process of cutting paper in a shape or design by the use of a wooden die or block in which are positioned steel rules in the shape of the desired pattern, especially used for labels, boxes, tags and containers.

Digital Printing

A method of printing that uses no film or plates, printing directly from a digital file. There are various types of digital printing, mostly used on small quantity runs. Benefits include faster turnaround times, lowered production costs, and the ability to personalise documents. It is frequently used for on-demand or short-run colour printing.


Making even, equal holes in paper using a metal drill bit (for use in a ring binder). Drills can neatly perforate a much greater thickness of paper than the office hole-punch!

Dummy (1)

A plain white mock-up of a booklet or brochure made to resemble the final printed product which uses the proposed grade, weight, finish and colour of paper. This is the best way to get a feel for the finished product.

Dummy (2)

A mock-up produced by the designer to show how the finished job will look. This may involve colour prints from various sources and will therefore not be on the intended stock. Also called a comp.


When a photograph is printed using two ink colours it is a duotone. The most common colour combinations are black plus a colour, but duotones can be created using two Pantone ink colours. Usually printed in dark colour for detail and a second plate printed in light, flat tints.


Stamping a design into the paper to produce a raised effect. Can be coated in foil or ink to enhance the design.


When the design is sunk into the paper rather than raised.


Films are produced by an image setter from the artwork. They are used to produce printing plates by a photochemical process. There is one separated film for each colour ink used.


Any process that follows the actual printing. Can include folding, creasing, collating, stitching and binding. All of the finishing done by RJ Print is carried out in-house.

Four Colour Printing

Used for producing colour print and based on the principle that any colour is made up of differing proportions of the primary colours blue, red, and yellow. The four ink colours are Cyan (Blue), Magenta (Red), Yellow and Black - often referred to as CMYK. Because the inks used are translucent, they can be overprinted and combined in a variety of different proportions to produce a wide range of colours. The vast majority of all colour print is produced using four-colour process.


A rotary printing process where the image is etched into the metal plate attached to a cylinder. The cylinder is then rotated through a trough of printing ink after which the etched surface is wiped clean by a blade leaving the non-image area clean. The paper is then passed between two rollers and pressed against the etched cylinder drawing the ink out by absorption. Gravure is most often used for either very high quality or long run printing.


Abbreviation for grams per square metre. This indicates the weight of paper or other stock. For example; A typical photocopier paper would be 80gsm - a good letterhead paper might be 100gsm - a postcard would be about 250gsm.


The method of producing a range of tones, such as a photograph or tinted area, by dividing the image into a series of dots. Dark areas have relatively big dots, close together. Light areas have small dots surrounded by white space. The number of dots used determines the quality of the image produced. In a newspaper the halftone dots are easily visible to the naked eye - the screen used can often be as coarse as 60 dpi (dots per inch). A colour magazine would typically use a screen of 150 dpi - An art book, 175 dpi or finer. A halftone screen can be applied to a solid colour in order to produce tints of that colour.


Output device used to produce separated films from digital artwork. It can be thought of as a very high resolution printer. Most systems use the Postscript page description system.


The layout of pages on the printed sheet so that they are in the correct order when the sheet is folded up and trimmed.

Laid Paper

Uncoated paper often used for business stationery which has a textured pattern of parallel lines similar to hand made paper.


A plastic coating which protects the printed surface and usually gives a high gloss or mat finish. Laminated products cannot be recycled.


The orientation of the page so that the long edge is along the bottom. Sometimes referred to as horizontal. The opposite of portrait.

Line artwork

Artwork which contains no colours or halftones, such as company symbols or simple diagrams.

Lithography (litho)

By far the most common type of commercial printing and based upon the principle that oil and water do not mix. The printing plate is treated so that the image area attracts oil-based inks and the wet non-image areas repel the oil-based inks. To create a lithograph with a number of different colours, a different plate for each colour must be prepared.

Make Ready

The processes involved in getting a press ready for a print run.


A very similar process to Cromalin for making contract colour proofs

Offset Printing

A printing process in which the inked image is transferred (ie, "offset") from the plate to an intermediate blanket before being printed on the substrate.


The basic elements of the artwork. Includes photographs, print or transparency, illustrations, line artwork etc.


A quantity of printed material in excess of the amount ordered.


The brand name of a colour matching system produced by Pantone Inc of the USA. The full spectrum of ink colours are specified and identified by number to produce standard results across the printing industry. Special Pantone books are used to provide exact representations of each specific colour and also demonstrate how the same ink appears when printed on uncoated or coated stock. Sometimes the difference can be quite dramatic. It is worth remembering that Pantone inks provide a much greater range of colours than can be achieved using CMYK. This is important if trying to match work printed in four colour process with that printed in defined Pantone colours.

Paper Sizes

The most common system of paper sizes in Europe is the ISO standard. Most people are familiar with the A series which includes A4, the usual letterhead size. The C series is for envelopes - A C4 envelope being ideal for holding an A4 sheet. There is also a B series which provides intermediate sizes for the A series but this is rarely used. Two other series which you may come across are RA and SRA which are used by printers. They are slightly larger than the A series to provide for grip, trim and bleed.

Perfect Binding

A type of book binding where the pages are held in the spine by glue. Many magazines and most paperback books are perfect bound.


Printing both sides of a sheet in one pass.


The orientation of the page so that the short edge is along the bottom. Sometimes referred to as vertical. The opposite of landscape.

Printing Plate

The physical plate which carries the image. These can be made from a variety of materials including aluminium and polyester.


Colour proofs taken at each stage of printing showing each colour printed singly and then superimposed on the preceding colour.


A ‘test print’ produced to show what the finished product will look like in terms of layout, text and colour separations. These can be made in a variety of different ways and at different stages of the production process. The simplest form is a colour laser or inkjet print produced. It should be remembered that any proof, with the exception of a wet proof, cannot be relied upon as an accurate method of proofing colour or material. Increasingly popular are digital proofing systems which make use of colour management techniques for their accuracy.


When printing with two or more colours it is necessary to align the different printing plates. This is known as register. On the edges of an untrimmed sheet you will see small target shapes called register marks which are used for accurate positioning. A printed piece which is out of register will have an unfocused look.

RIP - raster image processor

A computer running advanced algorithms which translates a page description into the particular control commands necessary to drive a raster output device. The output device could be a laser printer, an imagesetter, a digital proofer, a CTP setter or perhaps a digital press.


Often when a printing price is quoted it is given as a figure for the basic job plus a figure for additional copies. For example the price may be 2000 copies at 300 with 25 for a 500 run-on. This enables you to calculate a range of prices for different quantities.

Saddle Stitch

A simple way of assembling a small booklet or magazine with a wire stitch through the fold – the same as stapling.


A device for turning a piece of artwork into a digital form. Transparencies, prints and illustrations are scanned so that they can be accessed by software designed for image manipulation and page makeup. For many years the industry standard was the drum scanner, a rotary system which produced very high-resolution scans. Flatbed scanners have improved in quality to the point where some but not all, are also suitable for high-end work. Check out the D-Max of the scanner before you buy, if its below 4.0 then its not as good as a Drum Scanner. One of the best flatbeds on the market is an Eversmart, check out this link for more information. Flatbeds


Heavier paper and boards need to be scored with a rule to make folding easier. Ideally every paper above 150gsm should be scored on folds to prevent the ink from cracking.


A folded sheet which is assembled with others to make up a book. For example an A2 sheet will provide a section of eight A4 pages when folded twice. A 20 page booklet would therefore require two 8-page sections and one 4-page section. These sections are then saddle-stitched together.


A printing fault where ink transfers from a sheet to the one below as it leaves the press creating an undesirable ghost image.

Special Colours/ Spot Colours

This refers to custom mixed colours which are produced using specially mixed inks from one of the commercially available colour ranges, such as Pantone.


The preferred medium for photographs intended for printing. Transparencies generally have sharper images and better colour than photographic prints.

UV Varnishing

A method of adding a gloss finish to printed surfaces. The advantage of UV varnishing is that it is similar to printing an extra colour and can be applied to selected areas to produce special effects. The UV refers to the Ultraviolet lamp under which the varnished sheets pass for rapid drying.


A web printing machine is one that accepts the paper on a large roll (the web). These are very fast presses and are only economic for long run and high volume work. The opposite of sheet fed.

Wet Proof

The most accurate method of proofing for colour matching and material suitability which involves actually printing a quantity of the specific job using the commercial stock and inks.


Continuous series of double wire loops run through slots that have been punched in the binding edge of a booklet. See Comb Binding.

Work & Turn

When a whole job is printed on one side of sheet, the sheets turned and printed again using the same plates. For example, a single sheet A4 flyer is printed with back and front adjacent to each other on one side of an SRA3 sheet. The sheets are flipped over and printed with the same plates again. When trimmed you have A4 sheets with a different image front and back. The advantage of this technique is to save a plate change and make-ready cost.

Wove Paper

Uncoated paper often used for business stationery which has no obvious surface texture or pattern and a smooth finish.


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